Expedition Corner |
In Memoriam: Klaus Lindermann
On February 17, 1944 the peaceful tropical skies over Truk Lagoon exploded in a frenzy of activity as the American Navy, Task Force 58 - a group of nine aircraft carriers and related cruisers, destroyers and subs launched an attack on the Japanese forces that were stationed here. World War II was raging and Operation Hailstone, launched partly in response to the Japanese attack on Pearly Harbor earlier, was designed to cripple the Japanese naval forces.
For two days, American bombers dropped their arsenal onto the ground and waters below, sinking numerous ships in the process. Many of the large, impressive Japanese warships now found themselves lying broken and beaten at the bottom of the tranquil lagoon. Freighters, cruisers, tankers and other cargo vessels were all targeted and many were destroyed. More than 400 Japanese planes were wiped out and some 50-60 ships were believed sunk. Those two days of devastating air assault created what is today known as the "Ghost Fleet of Truk Lagoon". During the past 50 years, these wrecks have remained nearly undisturbed on the bottom of the lagoon. It was an impressive victory for the Americans and further attacks occurred in April of the same year.
Today, Truk Lagoon's tranquility has returned. Part of the Federated States of Micronesia, Chuuk (as it is now referred to) is a peaceful place were the relics of war are preserved for visitors to see. In the overgrown jungles of the small islands that comprise this state are the remains of Japanese structures long ago bombed and destroyed. Tunnels excavated in the hills can still be explored and the anti-aircraft weapons used there stand in silent testimony to the action of the war from a half-century ago. Most impressive, however, are the shipwrecks of Truk lagoon, the Japanese Ghost Fleet, which lie at the bottom of the lagoon.
Once proud warships, the broken hulls and twisted scraps of metal are now festooned with brilliantly beautiful soft corals, and are home to magnificently diverse populations of marine life. Diving along these wrecks, you can quickly become absorbed in the riot of marine life before you.
But, as you descend inside and penetrate away from the life giving sunlight, you enter a completely different world. Here, there is no colorful coral growth to hide the relics of a time long forgotten. The insides of the ships are ghostly places, where the day to day life of the sailors is brought back to existence…Bottles of Saki, ornately decorated china dishes and bowls, medicine bottles, gas masks and rifles. The halls of these ships echo with the spirits of those departed and a sense of reverence invades your mind. As you swim over the remains of a Japanese sailor, you pray for his soul and for the peace that the world so desperately seeks…
Our journey to Truk Lagoon was an arduous one. After leaving from Newark Airport in New Jersey, we traveled across seven time zones, changed planes twice, argued with airline personnel (and lost) about excess carry-on baggage and finally arrived in Truk some 22 hours after we left…with our now checked camera baggage lost in transit! A late night transfer via boat to our live aboard dive vessel ( SS Thorfinn ) finished the journey and, although we were physically exhausted, our minds were racing with eager anticipation of the dives to come.
Our first dive in the 83-degree tropical waters of Truk was to the wreck of the Heian Maru, the largest ship sunk in Truk Lagoon. This was formerly a luxury passenger ship converted to be a submarine tender for the war effort. Resting in 120 feet of water, the Heian Maru is an example of some of the fascinating dives available in Truk. In her cargo holds, for example, are Long Lance torpedoes in various states of repair, submarine supplies and various guns and other maritime supplies.
One of the most fascinating dives in Truk is on the Fujikawa Maru. The wreck sits in 112 feet of water, but the superstructure reaches to 30 feet and it is a dive for all ranges of experience. The deck gun, heavily encrusted with corals and other marine growth, is a famous landmark, as is the crow's nest and other parts of the photogenic superstructure. Inside the cargo holds are the remains of Japanese Fighter planes and this adds a fascinating complement to the dive.
As part of our expedition to Truk, we explored some of the deeper wrecks in the lagoon as well. The San Francisco Maru lies in 200 feet of water and is loaded with so much war material that it is often referred to as "The Million Dollar Wreck." A beautiful deck gun makes for great photographs and is an ideal place to stop and catch your breath after descending through 180 feet of water. Inside, the San Francisco holds much fascination for divers who can see mines, munitions and aerial bombs stacked neatly waiting for a deployment that will never come.
In addition to the San Francisco, we dove deep to the Amagisan Maru, another freighter resting in 200 feet of water. This ship rests on an angle on the bottom and has an interesting deck gun and a tanker truck resting on her deck. In her holds are various cargo and all are worth exploring.
Our diving at Truk was conducted aboard the SS Thorfinn, a large, comfortable and very competent dive boat and operation. Often making 4 dives per day, we were able to maximize our underwater time at Truk. Be careful when diving here, however, as the nearest decompression chamber is in Guam and the dives here are generally very deep. The Thorfinn mandates a strict schedule of decompression stops on all dives which seems to minimize the risk greatly.
The dives at Truk are fascinating glimpses into the history of this area and of the horrors of war. All shipwrecks are tragedies, especially those that result in the loss of life. Most of the human remains have been removed from the lagoon, but on occasion, divers do encounter the remains of the unfortunate sailors who perished here. It is with reverence that we explore these wrecks and we pray that the souls of the victims of these activities have found peace in the tranquility of Truk Lagoon.
Locating Wrecks in Truk Lagoon without GPS:
Any first-time diver in Truk will marvel at the skill of the Chuukese Dive Masters in locating wrecks beneath the water. Without mooring buoys or scientific instruments, these homegrown dive guides will put the anchor down right on the money. And Kimiuo Aisek, founder of Blue Lagoon Dive Shop, was the first.
Learn more about Operation Hailstorm:
If you plan to dive in Truk, then the book listed below is a MUST! This guide gives divers accurate illustrations of all the popular wrecks with their depths, penetration/diver skill levels, points of interest, ships perspective on the bottom, detailed information of each ship, line drawings, historical photos as well as ship renderings that show how they look today on the bottom.
Hailstorm - The Dive Guide
Wrecks in Truk Lagoon, (silhouettes, photos and descriptions)
by Klaus Lindermann
In Memoriam: Klaus Lindermann
Also known as Truk, but was changed to it’s original name in 1986 when the Compact of Free Association went into effect. The compact is a 15-year political relationship with the United States that started in October, 1986. Chuuk state consists of seven major island groups lying within the Eastern Caroline Islands, about 617 miles (1028 km) southeast of Guam and 3,262 miles (5,436 km) southwest of Hawaii. The total land mass of Chuuk state, including the outer islands, is approximately 77 square miles (128 km). Chuuk along with Yap, Kosrae & Pohnpei make up the Federated States of Micronesia.
The giant lagoon is almost 40 miles in diameter and reaches depths of 300 feet. Aside from the sheer beauty of the undersea coral reef beneath the clear water, the bottom of Chuuk lagoon is the final tomb for more than 100 ships, planes and submarines--the legacy of a fierce World War II battle between the Japanese Imperial Fleet and Allied carrier attack planes.
The water ranges between 82°F & 85°F. A thin wet suit (3mm) or lycra suit (Darlex or Polartec) is recommended since divers often make four or more dives a day and can develop a chill. The visibility averages 60 to 100 feet around the wrecks and usually exceeds 100 feet on the outer reef & walls. The vast majority of wrecks lie in 45-100 foot depths and are covered with a vast array of corals making them among the most beautiful wreck dives in the world. The Chuukese government has a strict no collecting policy and all diving must be done with certified guides.
The diving is excellent December thru April. During May, June & July, the waters are typically flat calm, but there is more potential for plankton blooms & reduced visibility. August through November is considered the rainy season.
U.S. citizens do not need a passport (Foreign Entry Requirements) to travel through Micronesia, but if you have one bring it with you. Otherwise you will need some kind of proof-of-citizenship like a picture ID such as a drivers license or a birth certificate. Non-US citizens should check with the appropriate consulate. The Truk government levied a cruising tax of $31.50 US per person per week for live-aboards and a $30 US per person dive tax. This tax is collected at the end of the week when you settle your tab. The departure tax of $25-$40 US is collected at the airport prior to your departure. These fees are levied by the Federated States of Micronesia & are subject to change without notice.
Currency - US Dollar
Population (1994 Census) - 53,319
Land Mass - 49.2 square miles
Electricity - 110V AC, 60Hz
Language - English, Chuukese, Pohnpeian, Kosraen, Yapese, and others
International Dialing Code - 691
Time Zone - GMT +11
Chuuk Visitors Bureau
P.O. Box FQ Weno, Chuuk FSM 96942
Phone: (691) 330-4133
Fax: (691) 330-4194
Other Foreign Currency Converters, Airlines, Health links
DAN diving insurance is
Running time: 90 minutes
2002 Article Release:
Available Books, Music & Videos
|World War II Wrecks of the Truk Lagoon||Diving and Snorkeling Guide to Truk Lagoon||Hailstorm Over Truk Lagoon|
|Graveyards of the Pacific: From Pearl Harbor to Bikini Island||Sunken Secrets of World War II - The Legacy of Truk Lagoon|
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